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The fact that the Mafia owes YT a favour (“You’ve got a friend in The Family”) brings her to the notice of Uncle Enzo. Uncle Enzo is not so-called for nothing, as he is an avuncular old gentleman in bespoke Italian suits and hand-made shoes who formed his leadership theories in the jungles of Vietnam. There, as a lowly grunt, he personally murdered a lieutenant who was putting the rest of the platoon in danger. (Snow Crash, like many near-future dystopian novels, somewhat underestimates how long it will take for things to change). Uncle Enzo is ostensibly kindly and urbane and carries a straight razor in his inside jacket pocket at all times. 

In the hands of a less brilliant writer, the relationship between YT and Uncle Enzo would be a May/November romance of the sort that made most right-thinking people throw up in their mouths a little bit when it played out on screen between Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Fortunately Stephenson is not writing for Hollywood and therefore Uncle Enzo’s interest in YT is purely paternal. He gives her his dog tags in a symbolic adoption – YT’s actual dad is nowhere around and is never mentioned – and worries about her in a fatherly way.  But, hey, that’s because YT is clearly the romantic interest for Our Hiro, Mr Protagonist, right?

Wrong. YT and Hiro are business partners and buddies who work together and have one another’s backs, but no more than that. There is not a scintilla of sexual tension between them. YT gives Hiro relationship advice and Hiro pitches up to break YT out of jail when her actual boyfriend, another Kourier, has declined to do so because he’s in the middle of delivering an important package the other side of town (his sole appearance in the book), but that it. The hero and heroine have a perfectly good, well-rounded and fulfilling relationship which is as satisfying for the reader as it is for them, and sex and romance have nothing to do with it. 

More tomorrow.